Recap: @MutuaMadrid Open Day 7
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
We entered the latter stages of the tournament as the men’s quarter finals and women’s semi finals were settled in a rainy Madrid.
Murray, Nishikori, Nadal and Djokovic complete the final four
Andy Murray opened the day under the roof as the rain came down in the Spanish capital. The Brit faced eighth seeded Tomas Berdych and hoped to make it four wins ain a row against the big hitting Czech. Murray took command early with a break of serve in the second game./ Berdych struggled to impose his power on the world number two, and after sailing through the first set he went to work on getting the job done quick.
Two more breaks of serve in the second set secured an easy win for Murray, who progresses to the semi finals where he will face Rafael Nadal.
“Obviously from my side it was obviously a good match. Again, no break points against me. It was different conditions playing under the roof. Adjusted to them well.” Murray said post match
“That was, yeah, the most pleasing thing for me. Only played maybe three or four indoor clay matches in my life.
“Not easy conditions against a tough opponent and I played well.”
That’s now four straight wins over Berdych after previously being down in their head to head? So what has changed over the past three years?
“I think I’ve obviously made improvements in my game.” The Brit said.
“Yeah, last few times I’ve played against I’m him I’ve played good matches. I’ve been motivated.
“We played a bunch also when we were much younger. He’s a huge, huge guy, big, strong guy. Before his power was giving me trouble, especially when I was young.
“We also played once at the French Open in very heavy conditions. It was very wet and I wasn’t able to get the ball going through the court and he was generating a lot more power than me.
“Yeah, but now I’m a bit older, physically stronger, and been able to cope better.”
Nadal survived a potential scare against Joao Sousa in a three set battle on Manolo Santana. The roof was re-opened as the rain cleared momentarily and the Spaniard took advantage of the more favourable conditions with a 6-0 first set.
The rain came again and the roof was closed again for the second set. From there the Portuguese began playing far better and he went on to take the second set 6-4. There was a sense of unease for the home fans as their hero was getting pushed by the underdog. Sousa however could not keep up his level, and a double fault at 4-3 gave Nadal the break through. The world number five successfully served out the match for a three set win.
Novak Djokovic defeated Milos Raonic in straight sets in the night session. The Serb was largely untroubled by the Canadian and eased to a 6-3, 6-4 victory,
“One of the keys of the match was getting as many returns back in play.” Said the world number one.
“I knew that before I stepped on the court that I should not give him too many free points on his serve. That’s where the big servers get a lot of confidence.
“So I returned exceptionally well. I thought I didn’t do too many things wrong. Very, very pleased with the performance. When I was in trouble I came up with good serves, good forehands. Maybe could have capitalized on the opportunities early in the second set to go double break, but credit to him for fighting, for being aggressive.
“It’s not easy to play somebody that serves that big. You know, I was very pleased with the return. That was one of the best shots of the game today.”
Kei Nishikori booked another semi final place in a three set thriller with Nick Kyrgios. The Aussie took the opening set tiebreak, but Nishikori came back to win in three sets 6-7, 7-6, 6-3. The match featured many great points including a tweener lob winner by Kyrgios. However the Aussie could not convert his style into success today. Nishikori progresses to meet …. in the semi finals on Saturday.
“I think it was a great match. Played very high level, both of us.” Nishikori said.
“I think he served really well. Even though I have many opportunity first and second set, many breakpoints, I couldn’t convert.”
“If I could play better those important point maybe I could finish two sets. Yeah, like I said, he served really well. Yeah, I just stay tough. You know, was tough two tiebreak, but I tried to play maybe little more aggressive in second set. Third set I think I return little better. I see his serve little better. Yeah, it was really tough match, but very happy to win today.”
Cibulkova to face Halep in Saturday’s final
The dream run for American teenager, Louisa Chirico, came to an end as she was quickly dispatched by Dominika Cibulkova. The Slovakian came out firing against a nervous Chirico and raced into a 5-0 lead. The 19 year old held serve to get on the board but could not mount any comeback.
The second set went much the same. Cibulkova was dominant from the baseline and did not allow Chirico to play her game. Once again the birthday girl raced through the set to seal a dominant 6-1, 6-1 victory. The emotion for Cibulkova was clear after the match as she managed to make another big final despite struggles with injury in recent years.
“Of course I’m always more emotional when I win. Even during the match. So it’s part of me. But I was really, really happy, because today’s match was not easy. I made it look easy.” Cibulkova said post match.
“But I was playing just really well. I was dominating on the court and I was mentally very strong.
“I was just — you know, it was just really, really good match from my side.”
It was quite the way to celebrate her birthday.
“Yeah, it feels great.” She added,
“As I said before, I was hoping and waiting for something big like this. It’s happening right now, so I’m really happy. I work really, really hard for this. You know, it all came together on this tournament.
“I hope it’s just next step for what I want to achieve. You know, it feels great.”
After the press conference was over, Cibulkova was presented with a birthday cake as the room sang ‘Happy Birthday’.
For Chirico, it was not quite the way she wanted to end a breakthrough week, however she can take a lot of positives from Madrid.
“I’ll definitely remember parts from the whole week.” Said the American.
“Like I said, it’s been a really fun ride. I just found out I’m top 100 now. I don’t know what exactly, but I’ll find out on Monday.”
“So, yeah, I am just really excited. It’s been a great really and I’m trying to focus on the week is as a whole and not just today.”
The Slovakian will meet Simona Halep in the final after the Romanian destroyed Sam Stosur in the second semi final. The Aussie started well but was overwhelmed by Halep in a 6-2, 6-0 thrashing.
“Yeah, looked like perfect game.” Halep said post match.
“I felt really well. In the morning actually I was a little bit sore from all the week. Then I warmed up and I felt really well. I knew how she plays. I played many times against her. Her game fits very well on my game.
“Today with the roof as well was a good thing for me. I needed few games to get the rhythm and to get the feeling, and then was easier for me to return her balls.
“The balls have like a lot of topspin, and it’s really tough to hit it over the shoulder. So I tried everything to get the rhythm, and then was much easier.”